A Wild Herb for a Summer Beer Recipe

Yarrow is a surprisingly flavorful wild plant that’s easy to grow and equally easy to use in delicate, herbal beers like the one here.



"The Homebrewer’s Garden"
February 2017

Yield: 5 gallons (19 L)

From those just getting started to small farmers looking to expand their repertoire, the pages of The Homebrewer’s Garden, 2nd Edition (Storey Publishing, 2016), by Joe and Dennis Fisher, contain no shortage of growing and brewing inspiration. For the garden, there are sections filled with advice about small-space hops cultivation, trellising, the latest grain-growing techniques, tips for successful hop, herb and grain cultivation, troubleshooting, and more. And for the beer, there’s a collection of delicious recipes for 32 specialty homebrews just like this one. Filled with wisdom from two men who have experienced it firsthand, this book is the essential guide for the gardener who loves beer.

Amelia Loftus is the author of Sustainable Homebrewing (Storey, 2014), a book on organic homebrewing. But she’s been a force in the field for a long time. She started brewing in 1994, and in 1997 became a founding member of the Seven Bridges Cooperative in Santa Cruz, California, which specializes in selling organic homebrew ingredients. Amelia was their business manager for 15 years, and she now operates a small farm and coffee roastery and attends farmers’ markets 5 days a week. We were interested in Amelia’s take on brewing with yarrow in her book and asked her to talk more about it here.

“Yarrow has a long history as a brewing ingredient and an extensive pedigree as a healing herb. Despite all this, the reason it has become my favorite brewing herb is because I love the herbal, slight anise flavor and aroma it brings to lighter beer styles, and the fact that yarrow is basically a weed that is really easy to grow.

“Yarrow grows wild almost everywhere. It likes sandy soil and dry con­ditions. It grows wild on the little 3-1/2-acre property I live on in California. I found a patch near the driveway and I have encouraged it to multiply by add­ing some well-aged compost and giving it a little water, once a week or so, in the dry season. I dug up some of the young yarrow plants in the springtime and planted them in my herb garden, where they are also thriving.

“I like to use the dried yarrow for adding some unique bitterness to the brew. The fernlike leaves offer the most bitterness and tannins, so I use this part sparingly. The best aromatics come from the flowers. The fresh harvested flowers, thrown in to steep at flameout, or steeped in just-boiled water and added to the secondary fermenter, bring a wonderful delicate aroma and tart herbal flavor to the beer.”

Yarrow is a fascinating herb. A lot of it grows wild here at our farm, and we also grow huge beds of multicolored yarrow for cutting flowers. The wild plant has white flowers and is surely one of the brewing herbs that’s most easily gathered from the wild. Ameila feels that yarrow has a tendency to add an “extra layer” of intoxication and stimulating properties to the beer she brews with it. Other herbs like mugwort and wormwood have a similar reputation.

Honey, Lemon, Yarrow Beer Recipe

This recipe is from Amelia’s home brewery. She was kind enough to brew a special batch for us and includes these tasting notes: “A light, refreshing beer with a pleasant tartness and an intriguing herbal note. A touch of herbal bitterness to balance the malty finish. The key to this beer is resisting the urge to add too much yarrow. It is a potent herb, and too much can lead to a beer that is too astringent, bitter, and a little too inebriating!”

Initial Gravity: 1.050 –1.056
Final Gravity: 1.012 –1.016

Ingredients:

• 3/4 pound (340 g) organic pilsner malt, crushed
• 1/2 pound (226 g) organic light wheat malt
• 1/2 pound (226 g) organic light Munich malt
• 4 pounds (1.8 kg) organic pale dry malt extract
• 2 pounds (900 g) light honey (clover or orange blossom)
• 3/4 ounce (21 g) Sterling pellet hops, AA 8 percent, 6 HBU
• 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) organic Irish moss
• 1 ounce (28 g) American Citra or Cascade pellet hops
• 3/4 ounce (21 g) dried or 1-1/2 ounces (42.5 g) fresh yarrow flowers
• 1–2 ounces (28-57 g) fresh zest from 3 or 4 Meyer lemons (Use a vegetable peeler to get as much fresh zest as possible.)
• White Labs 002 English ale yeast, 001 California ale yeast, Wyeast 1968 London ESB ale yeast, 1056 American ale yeast, or Safale US-05 American ale yeast
• 3/4 ounce (21 g) dried or 1-1/2 ounces (42.5 g) fresh yarrow flowers
• 1/2 cup (118 ml) organic corn sugar for priming

Instructions:

1. Mix grains with at least 3 quarts (3 L) water, or fill a grain bag and place it in your brew pot filled with water. Gently heat to 150 degrees F (66 C), and steep 15 to 20 minutes. Strain all liquid from grains. Add enough water to the wort to fill brew kettle; total volume should be 5-1/4 to 5-1/2 gallons (20 to 21 L) (adjust for your brewing system).

2. Heat to just before boiling, add malt extract and honey, and dissolve completely. Bring to a boil.

3. Once wort has reached a full boil, start your timer and add Sterling hops. Boil 40 minutes. Add Irish moss, and boil 15 minutes. Add Cascade hops and 3/4 ounce yarrow, then turn heat off. As soon as the heat is turned off, add citrus zest, and stir well. Let steep 2 minutes before cooling.

4. Cool wort to 65 to 70 degrees F (18 to 21 C). Transfer to sanitized fer­menter, and aerate well.

5. Add yeast, then ferment for 5 to 7 days. Rack to secondary fermenter if desired. Add additional 3/4 ounce yarrow to fer­menter. Ferment an additional 7 to 10 days.

6. Prime and bottle beer using corn sugar when fermentation is complete. Allow to condition for at least 14 to 21 days.


All-Grain Adaptation

• 4 pounds (1.8 kg) organic pale malt, crushed
• 3 pounds (1.36 kg) organic Pilsner malt, crushed
• 1 pound (454 g) organic wheat malt, crushed
• 1 pound (454 g) organic Munich malt, crushed

Heat 3-3/4 gallons (14 L) water to 170 degrees F (76 C). Add all the grains, and mix well. Allow to rest a few minutes, then adjust temperature to 151 to 153 degrees F (66 to 67 C) if needed. Hold this temperature 45 to 60 min­utes or until starch conversion is complete. If possible, just before lautering, heat mash to 165 degrees F (74 C). Sparge with 3-1/2 gallons of water at 168 degrees F (76 C). Transfer wort to brew kettle, then continue with boil, fermentation, and bottling.


More from The Homebrewer's Garden:

Pumpkin Ale Recipe
Homemade Dandelion Stout Recipe


Excerpted from The Homebrewer’s Garden, 2nd Edition © by Joe Fisher & Dennis Fisher, used with permission from Storey Publishing.